Scott Kranz worked in partnership with Visit Idaho to create this Travel Tip.

The shuttle boat’s hull cuts through the glass-like water as we beeline across Redfish Lake to the inlet trailhead. It’s summertime in central Idaho, and the forecast calls for beautiful sunny weather and perfect conditions for an adventure into the Sawtooth wilderness!

I’m joined by my two good friends from Minnesota (my home state), Pat and Kelly. This is their first visit to Idaho, and I’m beyond excited to show them all the wonders of the area.

person driving boat
Boat across Redfish Lake to access the inlet trailhead. Photo Credit: Scott Kranz.

With each passing minute, the peaks surrounding the end of the lake seem to grow ever taller. The boat eventually slows and pulls up to the dock, where we jump out with our packs. From there, we hit the trail, eager to start our multi-night, multi-destination adventure.

We trek the first several miles of the Redfish Lake Inlet trail up the Redfish Valley with ease, soaking up views of the majestic peaks overhead and colorful wildflowers along the trail.

people hiking mountain ridge
Soak up the views on this trail. Photo Credit: Scott Kranz.

After three hours of hiking, we arrive at Baron Divide, the highpoint of the journey where we get our first views of the spectacular Monte Verita Ridge and pristine Baron Lakes, our home for the first of two nights. We hike down to the lakes, trying not to trip as our eyes gravitate toward the stunning views.

people hiking alpine lake.
On the hunt for the perfect campsite. Photo Credit: Scott Kranz.

We reach the lakeshore and find ourselves a beautiful camp spot. With the warm summer temps and the enticing clear water, we can’t help but swim and float in the lake and enjoy the day. Dinner rolls around, and before we know it, we’re all stretched out in our tents, ready to fall asleep to the sound of silence at this remote alpine lake.

The next day, morning breaks, and we slowly wake to the sight of light painting the Monte Verita Ridge peaks. Combining that with the mirror-like reflection, it’s hard to imagine a more beautiful scene!

reflection of mountains
Enjoy the magic hour. Photo Credit: Scott Kranz.

After enjoying the early morning magic hour at the lake, we decide to pack up and hike to our second and last destination of the adventure: Saddleback Lakes. We hike back up to Baron Divide and then back down into Redfish Valley, where we find the main trail once again.

A few miles on the main trail leads us to the Saddleback Lakes turnoff, where we start gaining elevation to reach the base of the Elephants Perch, an extremely aesthetic granite monolith and one of Idaho’s most iconic mountains.

After about an hour of hiking up, we finally arrive at Saddleback Lakes, where we’ll set up camp. We are all immediately blown away by the view of Elephants Perch towering over 1,000 feet above the lakes.

hikers at alpine lake
Make camp above the main lake. Photo Credit: Scott Kranz.

We set up our camp above the main lake, when we realize we are the only ones camping at the lake! What a treat to have solitude along with the beautiful scenery.

The daylight starts to fade, and we make ourselves a dinner. After filling our bellies beyond full, we lounge out and eventually see sunset pinks and oranges in the sky in all directions. It was the perfect ending to our second and last day in the Sawtooth backcountry.

tent above alpine lake
Views for days. Photo Credit: Scott Kranz.

The next morning, waking up in such a beautiful alpine environment, we slowly pack up our camp and hike back down into the Redfish Valley. Jumping back on the main trail, we hike the last few miles back to Redfish Lake and the pick-up dock.

people waiting on boat dock
Say farewell to the Sawtooths. Photo Credit: Scott Kranz.

During the short wait for our shuttle boat to arrive, we gaze down at the impossibly clear water of Redfish Lake and recount all the experiences of the last few days in the Sawtooths. Smiling from ear to ear, it’s clear we found our share of summertime magic during this trip into Idaho’s Sawtooth wilderness.

Feature image credited to Scott Kranz.

Scott Kranz (@scott_kranz) is a full-time photographer based in Seattle, Washington, specializing in outdoor sports, lifestyle, landscapes, travel photography and storytelling. Partnering with the world’s leading outdoor brands and destinations, Scott’s professional work includes hiking and alpine climbing in the Cascade, Sierra, Sawtooth, and Rocky mountain ranges; trekking in both the European and New Zealand Alps; canyoneering and mountain bike expeditions in the Southwest desert; and backcountry skiing among the active volcanoes of Japan.

Published on August 23, 2018